Addressing Mining Skills Shortages by Engaging Canada’s Youth
Written by the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR)
As we approach the last days of summer and students across the country return to school, the mining industry needs to look at new and innovative ways to promote careers in mining to Canadian youth – starting at the elementary level. Canada’s mining industry continues to face skills shortages stemming from high retirement levels, industry growth, skills gaps, and a lack of interest in mining-related careers among youth.
Canada depends on mining and mining depends on its workforce. Canada’s minerals and metals sector must increase its labour pool and talent pipeline to meet the continuously increasing demand for its critical minerals and metals needed for the transition to a clean economy.
Despite this, there is a downward trend in both undergraduate enrolments and degrees awarded for mining engineering programs from 2012 onwards. The number of enrolments peaked at over 1,400 in 2014, following the end of the commodity super cycle. As of 2020, this number had fallen to roughly 800. From 2016 to 2020, the decline gathered momentum, with enrolments decreasing 10 per cent annually and degrees awarded decreasing 15 per cent annually. Mining and geological engineering are two of the three engineering disciplines with the worst growth rates in this period.
The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) aims to help solve these challenges. Stemming from its National Youth Mining Career Awareness Strategy 2021-2026 – an industry stakeholder-led study on increasing youth engagement, transforming perceptions, building industry / education alliances, and promoting diversity – MiHR created the We Need Mining. Mining Needs You. career awareness campaign. It supports industry human resources efforts by promoting mining careers as innovative, challenging, and rewarding.
Aligned with the national strategy, MiHR launched the We Need Mining. Mining Needs You. Career Ambassador Programin partnership with the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) in September 2022. The program aims to raise awareness among diverse youth and key influencers about the career opportunities mining offers and the sector’s role in environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and technological innovation. It connects knowledgeable and enthusiastic Career Ambassadors to youth through in-person and virtual speaking engagements to increase awareness, improve perceptions and encourage pursuit of mining careers.
In connection with the career awareness campaign and in support of future mining talent, the five-year I Chose Mining. Mining Chose Me. Scholarship Program launched in 2021 to celebrate MiHR’s 25th anniversary. It is awarding 10 $2,500 scholarships between 2021 and 2025 to raise awareness, highlight youth contributions and support equity, diversity, and inclusion in mining. Last year, MiHR awarded scholarships to Emma Dodyk, undertaking a Master of Engineering – Mining Engineering, Mining Environment & Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, and Zivi Schaffer, a Bachelor of Science Degree student, and Environmental Geoscientist Candidate at Trent University. The deadline to apply for this year’s scholarships is September 30, 2023.
Canada’s mining industry continues to embrace and develop best practices towards diversity in the workplace, however the sector has struggled to diversify its demographics and leverage the full potential of its labour pool. At roughly half of Canada’s overall workforce, women represent a sizable group with the potential to answer talent shortages. Yet from 2020 to 2022, women made up only 16 per cent of the mining workforce. Immigrant workers also present a significant opportunity for the mining industry to expand its sources of labour supply. In 2022, immigrants represented roughly 30 per cent Canada’s overall workforce, but only 10 per cent of the mining workforce. On the other hand, from 2007 to 2022 Indigenous representation has nearly tripled, reaching a high of 12 per cent and pointing to a favourable trend for Indigenous employment outcomes in the mining sector.
The mining industry relies on a diverse workforce to extract and process the valuable minerals that are essential to modern life. As methods of mineral extraction become progressively more advanced, the educational requirements of the workforce need to evolve to include a greater share of workers with post-secondary training.
MiHR provides support to workers with diversity programs such as Safe Workplaces for All to address and help mitigate sexual harassment in mining; Gender Equity in Mining Works to provide organizations with proven, industry-developed tools to help eliminate systemic barriers to workplace gender inclusion; and a suite of eLearning courses to educate workers on intercultural and Indigenous awareness.
Engaging youth in mining is imperative to help resolve the mining industry’s skills challenges. Whether through career awareness campaigns, scholarships, work-integrated learning or other initiatives, industry partnerships are key to attracting the next generation of mining workers. Get involved in youth engagement by hiring a co-op student or job-ready youth, promoting We Need Mining. Mining Needs You. initiatives or by visiting MiHR.ca and MiningNeedsYou.ca to learn more about how industry representatives can connect with MiHR to help youth discover their place in mining.
MiHR is Canada’s knowledge centre for mining labour market intelligence. An independent, non-profit organization, MiHR drives collaboration among mining and exploration companies, organized labour, contractors, educational institutions, industry associations and Indigenous groups to identify opportunities and address the human resource and labour market challenges facing the Canadian minerals and metals sector.